Computing-power requirements to grow exponentially

Lawrence Livermore expects its need for computing power in the relatively near future to be one million times what is available today. According to Director Bruce Tarter, the U.S. computer industry, challenged by the Department of Energy's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative, could produce those gains within eight years. As hardware advances, massively parallel processors have become much easier to program and, therefore, more accessible. A 512-node IBM SP2 system, recently received, was running the Laboratory's most complex simulations two weeks after delivery, Tarter said.


Chemotherapy linked to sperm damage

Chemotherapy can cause chromosome abnormalities in sperm that make it unwise for men to father children while undergoing treatment, according to a study from Lawrence Livermore. The findings, published in the May issue of Nature Genetics, resulted from an eight-year study in which Livermore biophysicist and geneticist Andrew Wyrobek and his team studied eight men at a Houston cancer center. The men had Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of white blood cells, which tends to strike people between the ages of 20 and 40.
The research team processed semen samples collected before, during, and after periods of chemotherapy treatment. The team used a technique developed at Lawrence Livermore called chromosome painting, in which fluorescent dyes are applied to specific gene bundles in individual cells. Vividly displayed on a computer monitor hooked up to a microscope, the colors indicate whether a chromosome was deleted, repeated, or damaged.
According to Wyrobek, the body restores itself after chemotherapy, and the sperm return to normal in about 100 days. Wyrobek's methods could be used to study the effects of exposure to hazardous chemicals, smoking, or other factors that affect sperm. "We're going to apply this [technique] to studies of other risk factors-anything from personal habits like smoking or diet to drugs men might consume," he said.


Tools to catch smugglers of nuclear tomb material

Lawrence Livermore has joined the competition to create better tools for catching smugglers of nuclear bomb materials. A portable radiation detector that can run on AA batteries is expected to be available later this month. The new sensor is a kind of semiconductor that finds hidden sources of radiation by detecting gamma rays and recording their distinctive signature. Unlike standard hand-held detectors that only indicate that a radioactive material is present, this technology can distinguish one radioactive material from another.


Licenses issued for microreaction-chamber technology

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has issued limited exclusive licenses to two diagnostic instrumentation firms for use of its microreaction-chamber technology. The licenses, granted to Cepheid of Santa Clara, California, and Soane BioSciences of Hayward, California, allow the companies to use the technology specifically for amplification and detection of nucleic acids and for ligand-binding assays.
Licenses for microreaction-chamber technology in fields of use outside of amplification and detection of nucleic acids and ligand-binding assays are available from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Contact: James M. Sommercorn (510) 422-6416 (jsommercorn@llnl.gov).

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